Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Deep End

Most of what I have learned in life I have learned from running. Now I am starting to learn from swimming and life.

I bought a month pass for swimming so I will be training a lot this month. I had a few reflections in the pool this morning. Most importantly about relaxation and stress.

Swimming is a very technical sport. Although it is very important to be big and strong, one can excel based on a big heart and great technique. One of the most important aspects of swimming technique is relaxation. A relaxed and long stroke is a fast stroke. When one is watching a great swimmer they float effortlessly through the pool. The swimmer learns to swim with the water rather than fight the water. This is a great lesson for life.

I am amazed by how people adapt to stress. There are individuals who present a very obvious portrait of a stressed individual. The moment they walk into the room they look frayed, emotional and tight as a drum. If they were to get into a pool in that state they would drown. Instead of working with the environment and the situation they fight it. They flail in the face of surface tension and allow it rock their normal countenance. If this stress were able to stay in isolation it would not necessarily be a bad thing for those around them but alas the stress becomes toxic.

Just as a bad swimmer looks frantic they also create a huge wake and make the water quite turbulent. Turbulence in a pool do not enable good swimming. The turbulence created by a stressful person do not enable good living. There are many times when a stressed person will walk into a room, especially in a work environment, and throw a room in chaos. In life stress is important. We need stress to improve. We need stress to make our bodies and minds stronger. We need stress to keep ourselves challenged and fend off boredom. What we need is good stress; the just right challenge. What we do not need to constant stress generated by others. We do not need other's turbulence in our pool.

Fortunately, a good swimmer can swim through anything and make it look easy and relaxed. In a choppy pool they continue to make any swim stroke look effortless and easy. If one was to look at the individual one would be unable to tell what the conditions of the water were. Some people can thrive on calm water but when the waves come they fall apart and struggle. The poor technique of one destroys the good technique of another. What has to happen is all need to improve their individual technique for the group to improve. I believe the same holds true for unhealthy stress.

Some people will never get stressed and if they are stressed one cannot tell. The secret of the great swimmer is that whether they are swimming easy or hard, with great stress, they look the same. Their swim stroke never falters. There are individuals who move through life much like the great swimmer. If you throw them into a turbulent and anxiety provoking situation they will put their head down and get the situation sorted out without so much as a shrug. This may be the minority. There is also the minority on the other side. This is the individual we love to avoid. They are in a constant state of panic and slightest disturbance sets them on a path to total and complete freak out. And then we have the average. These are the individuals who normally are quite chill and relaxed. These people when influenced by those who are stressed or put into overly stressful situations fall apart. These are good calm water swimmers who cannot manage a stroke when put beside the moron doing butterfly in the slow lane.

What to do? We all need to improve how we deal with stress but more importantly gain an awareness of how our own dealings with stress may impact others. I do not want to leave a room with cortisol pumping through my veins because you cannot manage time and were late for work or missed a meeting. Your stress should not make me stressed. I do not want to confuse stressing others with asking for advice or needing someone to listen to our issues or problems. There is a difference. Stress is insidious. The contagious stressed person does not ask to dump their story and nor are they usually a friend. A friend who is having difficulty will ask to talk and it is a conversation. It is mutually beneficial and usually ends with a hug. The relationship with the stressed individual is caustic and both leave the room feeling drained and perplexed.

If we all work to improve our ability to work with stress then we will all progress to having a smooth and relaxed stroke. We will all be in the fast lane, cruising through the choppy waters as if alone on the calmest of waters. Relaxation in life, just as in swimming and sport, can balance the stress and lead to improved performance.

I have not updated on my injury lately. I am still injured. Running and walking and just about anything I do on my feet is still painful. I still limp to the bathroom every morning. Although I still have pain I think it is slowly getting better. I am enjoying my break from running though and I rarely have the urge to return to hard training. I am also enjoying the muscles that are starting to sprout on my body (I am still extra small though!).

Happy Training!

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing it. Great to see you continue to write after sidelining the running part of you. Cheers. ChristopherYVR